There’s a tendency to see self-care as more of a buzzword than an effective way to improve your well-being. But its benefits shouldn’t be underestimated. Self-care can reduce stress, help you sleep better, improve your coping skills and lift your mood.
By its nature, self-care is broad and can look different for everyone. For example, the repetitive motions of knitting can be as relaxing for some as frustrating for others.
Nevertheless, at its core, self-care is about showing care for your body and brain, which helps regulate your nervous system.
But what nearly everyone can relate to is that one of the most difficult things is finding the time in the day to do it. Here, with some insights from Richard Holmes, director of Wellbeing at private medical cover provider: Westfield Health, are six self-care activities you can do in 30 minutes or less.
Before beginning, it’s worth mentioning that these steps are designed to help but should not be used instead of seeing a healthcare professional. If you are struggling – please seek help.
Yoga at home
While scientific research into the benefits of yoga is ongoing, it’s clear that this centuries-old practice can improve your physical and mental health. This makes it a perfect addition to your self-care routine, especially if you stay home and follow an online session.
In the morning, 30 minutes of yoga can increase blood flow and gently warm up muscles, easing aches and helping your body feel awakened and prepared for the day ahead.
When the day is done, the meditative nature of some poses and exercises can also help prepare your mind and body for sleep. Focus on sitting or lying down poses and slow breathing exercises. Dim the lights and put on your pyjamas so that you can slip straight into bed afterwards.
Walking or jogging
Weather permitting, taking a stroll or jogging around the block before or after work is a great way to grab 30 minutes of self-care in your day. Exposure to sunlight helps to stimulate the production of serotonin, one of the 4 ‘happy’ chemicals which can help to lift your mood and help you feel energised.
Walking also increases blood flow and blood circulation, which releases endorphins like other forms of physical exercise – another one of the brain’s happy chemicals. Over time a brief but brisk walk in the morning can build your endurance and help you to feel more alert and ready for the day.
After work, a walk can also help disconnect your mind from the day and prepare you to relax in the evening.
Make yourself a hot drink – and take time to enjoy it
It’s tempting to gulp down tea and coffee before leaving work but having a hot drink in your hand is a good opportunity to sit and enjoy it. This idea is taken from the principles of hygge – the Danish concept of cosiness – which can also be seen as a form of self-care.
The hot drink can be soothing, while the quiet time can help you clear your mind and focus on the present. Sticking to low or caffeine-free drinks, especially in the evening, can be best.
Caffeine is a well-known stimulant that increases activity in your nervous system. While this can help you feel more alert, it can also increase tension and anxiety and make it more difficult to fall asleep.
Writing in a journal
There are several ways to journal, from a straightforward diary to a fully illustrated bullet journal. Whatever method you choose, 30 minutes or less each day, can help reduce stress, relieve anxious thoughts, and help you process emotions.
You are releasing pressure on your mind by putting your thoughts to paper (or a document on your computer). Writing down your daily tasks at the beginning of your day can help to organise your thoughts. Alternatively, using your journal for writing down positive thoughts and affirmations can give you something positive to look back on throughout the day.
When you don’t have time to book in with a professional or a visit to the spa, self-massage at home is a great thing to do in 30 minutes or less of self-care. It helps to relax your muscles and, in some cases, can relieve mild pain.
Tools are available to buy that can assist with massage; otherwise, making small circles with your thumbs over areas that feel tense or sore is a good method. Focus on common areas that hold tension, including your neck, shoulders, and lower back. Try giving yourself a foot rub; you might be surprised by how tense they are.
Or you could take a little more time than usual to moisturise – try giving yourself a home facial, concentrating on easing tension across your forehead, temples, and jaw.
Make a healthy snack
Maintaining a balanced diet has a multitude of health benefits. According to the NHS, this can include a stronger immune system, improved heart health, and stronger teeth and bones.
Eating a balanced diet can help to make you feel more awake and alert for your day and provides the energy and nutrients you need to stay active. It can also help to regulate your mood by maintaining sugar levels in your body.
For your 30 minutes of self-care, try making a healthy snack and take some time to savour the flavours and textures truly. You might even try making overnight oats to enjoy the next morning.
Finding time for self-care can be difficult, but the benefits are well worth the effort. This list has focused on things you can do yourself, but sharing them with others is also a good idea. Inviting a friend for your walk or catching up over a cup of tea can also benefit your mental health.
While this article has focused on things you can easily add to your day, you should also consider longer-term life changes. It could be that you begin to change your diet, like lowering the amount of caffeine, or you could find a new hobby to dive into. Try identifying the things that cause you to stress and take steps to deal with them.
Richard Holmes is the director of well-being at private health cover provider, Westfield Health.